Carlo Esqueda

Clerk of Circuit Court and Register in Probate

Dane County Courthouse
Room 1000
215 S Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703
Map to the Courthouse

Phone: (608) 266-4311
Fax: (608) 267-8859
TTY: Call Wisconsin Relay 711

7:45 AM to 4:30 PM
Closed all County holidays

Customers should arrive in time to complete all business by 4:30 PM

All filings and requests through the mail require a self addressed stamped envelope to return incorrect and/or processed paperwork and receipts to you. Please ensure all required documents are properly notarized before filing with the court.

Frequently Asked Questions about Juvenile Court

Related documents

Don't see your question listed?

See also the Juvenile Court's web page or contact the Juvenile Court office at (608) 266-4407 or the Clerk of Courts at the location above.

Q: What's the difference between Juvenile Court and Family Court?

Both offices deal with children and families. Juvenile Court handles matters such as child or juvenile protective services, crimes committed by children or juveniles, as well as termination of parental rights. Family court handles matters such as divorce, legal separation, annulment, child custody, child support, as well as paternity, counseling and mediation. Another court, probate court, handles adoptions and guardianships. All of these courts assist one another with cases that may cross into another's jurisdiction.

Q: How is "juvenile" defined in Wisconsin?

According to WI Statute § 938.02(10m), a person who is less than 18 years of age, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, does not include a person who has attained 17 years of age.

Q: At what age can a minor be prosecuted as an adult for the commission of a crime?

The age of majority for criminal offenses and forfeitures is 17. Wis. Stats. § 938.02(1) provides that " 'Adult' means a person who is 18 years of age or older, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated any state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, 'adult' means a person who has attained 17 years of age." See WI Statute § 938.183 "Original adult court jurisdiction for criminal proceedings" for more information regarding age. There are other circumstances in which a person under age 17 could be dealt with in adult court, including: (1) A juvenile age 15 or 16 may be "waived" into adult court by the juvenile court, and (2) there are certain very serious offenses that may be prosecuted in adult court.

Q: What is the "Juvenile Justice Code"?

Wisconsin Statute 938.

Q: What and where is the Juvenile Reception Center?

Located in room 200 of the City-County Building, the Juvenile Reception Center (JRC) serves as a location for multiple services in Juvenile Court, including being the point of referral for juveniles alleged to have committed a crime for whom the law enforcement agency apprehending the juvenile is unable to release the juvenile to a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult and/or in situations in which the law enforcement officer believes the juvenile should be referred for secure custody. JRC also provides a number of other services related to the physical custody of juveniles and coordinating information with the courts, human services, and law enforcement.

Q: Are Juvenile cases and records confidential?

Many Juvenile Court hearings are confidential. There are times, however, when the court proceedings are open to the public, mainly in second or subsequent delinquency cases. You should ask your Social Worker or attorney about the confidentiality of your particular hearing. You may be asked to sign a Release of Information form that allows certain parts of the record to go to other child-serving agencies that will be working with your child and the family. The Court may also issue an order to have certain records and facts released to involved parties.

Q: What are the legal rights of parents in juvenile cases?

To hire representation for themselves or their child and to be heard in Court. Parents in CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection or Services) cases are entitled to be represented by an attorney. Upon a finding of indigence, the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the parent(s).

Q: What are the legal rights of my child in Juvenile Court?

The Supreme Court ruled that juveniles have the right to know the allegations against them, to have legal representation, to question witnesses, protect themselves against self-incrimination, have a transcript of court proceedings on request, and have the right to appeal. In delinquency (law violation) situations, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial but can have a trial with the judge.

Q: What is termination of parental rights?

According to WI Statute § 48.40(2), the severing of rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties and obligations existing between parent and child, pursuant to a court order, voluntarily or involuntarily in the best interests of a child.

Q: My son got beat up by a classmate. Can I file a restraining order on behalf of my son?

Yes. The forms are available in the Legal Resource Center (Room L1007 in the Dane County Courthouse)

Q: How do I get help if I am a victim of a crime committed by a juvenile?

First make sure that the crime has been reported to law enforcement. Cooperate with the investigating officer and give as much information as possible regarding the type of damage and other details regarding the crime. They will also give you some information about who to contact if you have questions about your rights, and you will receive contact information for the Victim Witness Unit of the District Attorney's office. If charges are filed against the juvenile, you will be mailed a victim notification letter from the Victim Witness Unit. This is your opportunity to give the Victim Witness Specialist your opinion regarding restitution and consequences. You will also be given the opportunity to request that the Victim Witness Unit of notify you of any scheduled hearings. You have the right to attend some of these hearings and make a statement to the court if you choose. It is important that you provide any documentation that you have regarding the loss incurred. Due to various laws and statutes affecting juveniles, there are only certain costs that are recoverable in juvenile court as well as monetary limits. If you are not satisfied regarding the action taken in juvenile court, victims do have the right to sue the parents and child in civil court. The victim must initiate this process.

Q: What can the Juvenile Justice system do to help me with my child's problems?

When a child is placed on supervision with the Department of Human Services, a variety of programs and services can be made available to the child and family in order to help the child successfully complete supervision and prevent future problems. Such programs range from diversion programs to intensive supervision, as well as a variety of individual and family counseling services. The assigned social worker will aid the family in evaluating their needs and obtaining services.

Q: How do cases get started in Juvenile Court?

A case usually begins with a complaint brought against a juvenile through a report filed by law enforcement. The police send most complaints to the Juvenile Intake office after they have contact with a victim of a crime, or a threatened party. The complaint is reviewed by Juvenile Intake staff from Human Services and the District Attorney's Office. Juvenile Intake reviews the accusation (complaint/ referral) and works with the District Attorney's office to decide whether it is suitable for informal action (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) or if it should be filed as a petition in Juvenile Court. If the petition is filed with the Court, the hearing process will ensue. If it is sent to Human Services for further work with the youth/family, a social worker from Human Services will contact the parent(s) for an intake conference.

Q: What is non-secure custody?

Unlocked. It is not as restricted as a secure facility, such as detention, and could be the home of a parent, relative or guardian, friend of the family, foster or group home, or a hospital.

Q: Will my child have an attorney to help him? What if I can't afford to hire one for him?

In all delinquency, CHIPS/JIPS cases, juveniles/children have the right to be represented by a lawyer. In delinquency/JIPS cases, juveniles/children aged 10 and older, and in CHIPS cases children aged 12 and older, will be appointed an attorney by the State Public Defender's office. The attorney will advocate for the juvenile during all stages of the proceeding unless the juvenile wishes to continue without a lawyer and the Judge permits this. The parents in these cases will be ordered at the conclusion of the case to reimburse the state for the representation of their child. The amount is dependent on whether the charge is a felony or misdemeanor. Parents have the right to appeal this order to show indigence (inability to pay). Information about the appeal process will be provided once the case is concluded. The State Public Defender's Office can be contacted at 266-9150. Children under the age of 10 and alleged to be JIPS and children under the age of 12 and alleged to be CHIPS will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney who will represent the best interest of the child. The GAL is appointed at county expense.

Q: Why does my child's attorney say he/she cannot speak to me when I am paying for the representation?

Any child with pending charges in Juvenile Court has the right to be represented by counsel in all stages of Court proceedings. It is important for the child to be able to speak freely and honestly with his/her attorney so the attorney can provide the best counsel possible. It is also important that the attorney be able to respect the client/attorney trust by keeping conversations with the juvenile private. The attorney may only discuss general information with the parents due to this trust obligation.

Q: When do parents need their own lawyer or representation?

Three possible circumstances when parents may wish to seek their own representations are:

  1. If the parent(s) will be required to provide sworn testimony during a trial, depending on the nature of their testimony, or
  2. If the parent(s) object to the way they are being represented to the Juvenile Court by the District Attorney, or the child's defense attorney, or if they have a hostile relationship to the child's position, or
  3. The parent is a parent in a case alleging that their child is in need of protection or services (CHIPS). In CHIPS cases, for parents who have been found to be indigent, a court appointed attorney may be provided at county expense. An application will need to be filled out by the parent. Those forms can be obtained from the Juvenile Court Administration Office in Room 2000 of the Dane County Courthouse. They may also be found on the court website. It is form JD-1718. There may be other circumstances that arise for which having representation will be desirable for presentation of a parent's position to the Court and preservation of a parent's interests.

Q: What's an Intake Interview?

When your child has been charged with a delinquent act or is alleged to be a Juvenile in need of Protection or Services (JIPS), a Social Worker from the Dane County Department of Human Services will be assigned to your family. This usually takes one or two weeks. The social worker will then contact you by letter or phone to set up an initial meeting, called an Intake Interview. This meeting will take place at either the Social Worker's office or your home depending on the worker's schedule and preference. Family history will be one of the topics that will be discussed so that the Social Worker can get to know you better. This is important because the Social Worker, as the case planner, will be making recommendations to the court about what the conditions of supervision will be, which community services to use, or even which type of out of home placement may be best suited to your child's needs, where necessary.

Q: What is the hearing process?

In most Juvenile Court cases, the Juvenile Justice Code requires several steps in the hearing process, including:

  • A plea or jurisdictional hearing, at which the Juvenile and/or the parent, in some cases, will enter an admission or denial regarding the allegations in the petition. This hearing is where you may hear the juvenile's attorney make a request for a different Judge or for a waiver of the time limits for the next hearing. This may sound foreign and confusing to you, but the attorney is simply preserving the juvenile's rights under the statutes. Some of these rights may be lost if not requested at the PLEA hearing. The Commissioner or Judge may also order psychological and/or Alcohol or Drug abuse (AODA) evaluations at this hearing. It is important to note here that this hearing is an initial hearing and long-term planning decisions will probably not be made at this time.
  • A pre-trial conference at which the attorneys, Social Worker, parents, and the Judge may be able to work out an agreement that will settle the case without going to a trial.
  • A fact-finding hearing or trial in which the Judge determines whether a juvenile is delinquent or in need of protection or services by hearing testimony from all parties. If the Judge determines that the juvenile is delinquent or in need of protection or services, the final hearing will be set.
  • A dispositional hearing at which the Judge will hear the reports and recommendations of the Social Worker and others involved with this case. The Judge may have received written reports from other parties, such as psychologists and school personnel, before the hearing. Parents also will be asked their views on the recommendations. After the Judge hears all of the testimony, he or she will begin to list the "findings of fact," and then will decide the disposition of the case. The Judge will make a court order listing the conditions of the juvenile's period of supervision and a determination where the juvenile will reside if placement outside of the parental home is necessary through an out of home placement.

If you are unclear on any point in any of the hearings, be sure to ask the Judge/Commissioner, the assigned Social Worker, or an attorney to explain the order in more detail. In some minor cases, an agreement called a "Consent Decree" may be worked out at the pre-trial hearing thereby avoiding a final dispositional hearing. A consent decree is a form of probation that allows a juvenile to keep their record clean if they follow through with all of the conditions of the consent decree. If they follow through the case will be dismissed. If not, the juvenile can be brought back to court and can be found delinquent based on the plea they entered.

Q: What happens if my child is found guilty of a crime? Will my child go to jail?

Depending on the facts and circumstances, the final disposition of a juvenile case may or may not include time in a secure facility. Recommendations will be made to the Judge regarding placement of your child. The Judge will make a court order listing the conditions of the juvenile's period of supervision and a determination where the juvenile will reside if placement outside of the parental home is necessary.

Q: Who sets up community service work ordered by the court?

If the court orders a youth to make restitution payments or perform community service (unpaid service work), Dane County has a program called the Youth Restitution Program (YRP) that monitors both court ordered restitution and community service hours and reports back to the Court. The juvenile and his/her family will report to the Juvenile Reception Center to sign up for YRP immediately following the hearing in which the community service or restitution is ordered. The juvenile will be notified by YRP when a job site has been arranged. Social workers and parents on occasion may monitor the community service hours if approved by the Court. An adult must keep track of the number of hours completed and give it to the social worker. Discuss the issue with the assigned social worker for more information.

Q: What are CHIPS and JIPS?

CHIPS stands for Child In need of Protection or Services. It is a proceeding in juvenile court for any person under the age of 18 for noncriminal reasons including abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Similarly, JIPS stands for Juvenile in Need of Protection or Services, and are court proceedings involving a juvenile under the age of 18-(1) whose parent signs a petition requesting the court to take jurisdiction and is unable to control the juvenile; (2) who is habitually truant from school or home; (3) who is a school dropout; (4) who is under the age of 10 and has committed a delinquent (criminal) act; or (5) who has been determined to be not responsible for a delinquent act by reason of mental disease or defect or who has been determined to be not competent to proceed.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a child is being abused?

Call the Human Service intake office that serves the area in which the family resides as soon as possible. Human Services will investigate. When in doubt, report it to either a law enforcement agency or Human Services office. There are several human Services offices throughout Dane county, and you can look them up in the phone book, on the Internet, of contact you local police department for assistance.

Q: Can Juvenile cases and records be expunged?

Pursuant to §938.355(4m) a juvenile who has been adjudged delinquent may, on attaining 17 years of age, petition the court to expunge the court's record of the juvenile's adjudication. Expungement will not be approved if the juvenile, even though he/she has reached age 17, is currently under Juvenile Court jurisdiction/supervision. Expungement will only be approved in exceptional circumstances in which the juvenile/adult making the request demonstrates through course of conduct and/or provision of other information that it is in both the best interests of the juvenile and the public that their juvenile record be expunged.

Q: What is "you place/you pay" and does Dane County use it?

This inter-county agreement corresponds to venue and venue transfers for juvenile court. See the Wisconsin Department of Corrections venue agreement FAQ (Microsoft Word format) for more information about "you place/you pay." Dane County is part of this agreement. See also the Juvenile Court procedure manual for Dane County policies, specifically the section on Venue.

Q: Are forms for Juvenile Court online?

Yes. Go to the juvenile mandatory forms page to find mandatory Juvenile Court forms on the Internet.

Q: Is there assistance available in the Courthouse for filling out Juvenile Court forms?

There is no assistance currently available in the courthouse specifically for filling out Juvenile Court forms. Court staff may be able to tell you what needs to be filed, but they are not allowed to give out information that could be considered legal advice.

Didn't find an answer to your question? Contact the Clerk of Courts at the location above or the Dane County Legal Resource Center at 266-6316.